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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-06-02-0152

Author: Adams, Abigail (daughter of JA and AA)
Recipient: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1785-11-27

Abigail Adams 2d to John Quincy Adams

N 9
Never was there a young Man who deserved more a severe punishment than yourself. I am so out of patience with you, that I am quite at a loss in what way to revenge myself. In short I know of no method that I think would be adequate to your deserts. Month after month has elapsd, ship after ship has arrived, from New York, and six months have passed since you left us, and I have as yet received
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but one Letter from you in America.1 We are and have been looking for Vessells from Bostons till all our patience is exhausted. It is said here that so long a time has not passed since the peace without hearing from thence. My last went by Mr. James Jarvis, to New York,2 a few weeks have elapsd since, without my writing a word, to you, but you have not any shawdow of complaint to make, and I do not even think it proper to make any apology to you. So I shall pass over all that has passed, and you dont know what interesting matters you may have lost, and begin from yesterday when we dined at Mr. B. Vaughn where I met a Lady who inquired after you. Now if I were to serve you right I should leave the matter here and you to indulge your curiossity, but according to my natureal character and indulgence, I will tell you a little more. It was a Lady who knew you in Stockholm. Now what think you young Man. Does not your heart go pitepat, now bounce, as if it would break your rib. Nor do you know how many of yours adventures She confided to me. No matter what they were, I well remembered with how much pleasure you used to speak of Sweeden, and how many encomioums you passed upon some Ladies there. How Languishingly you used to look, about the one &c &c. I have a good memory of these things. The Lady has visitted us, and we shall return the visit. An acquaintance may ensue, of what degree, I will not yet venture to say. No Wonder you was a little caught, so young, so beautifull, so affable so easy, so accomplished, in short so—incomparable—a—. But I think you was not quite in your Politicks when the Gentleman offerd to get you presented at Court, to refuse.3
There was yesterday a Mr. de Wint and his Daughter. The young Lady is very pretty and very agreeable, they have Lived in Amsterdam many years. The young Lady speaks English a little. They are to pass the Winter here and the next year in Paris. There was another West India Gentleman and Lady and I think it was observed that there was but one Person at table who was not either Americans septentionial4 or Islanders, and that was a French Lady.
Last week Governor Pownall called upon us, just returnd from the south of France,5 where he says he has found a fine Country, and with a better religion and Government, he acknowledged he should think it one of the finest Countries in the World. We stay at home here sayd he, and vainly imagine there is no Country but this. I am convinced to the Contrary. Well said he addressing himself to me, I hope you like this Country better than France. I told him I liked this Country very well. You ought to like it answered he, for I have been { 470 } inquiring and I find they like you very well. Mrs. Pownal, called but we were really not at home. They are gone to Bath for a few weeks where you know every body repairs at this season, not knowing in what other way to spend their time, and nothing can more surprise them than to find persons, who are not reduced to such means to exist. This People cannot live like the rest of the World. From my own knowledge I cannot Judge, but I am told by all Foreigners, and some who are of rank and importance and who have lived in this Country as many years as fourteen and fifteen, that there is no such thing here as society, even among People of equal Rank, and importance, in their own opinions. They say that all the intercource there is, is by formal cerimonious visits, and that you will never find an English Lady at home, if you visit ever so often unless it is by particular invitation, and when they do meet them the heighth of sociability is, yes and No. I do not give this as my opinion for I have not acquaintance enough to form any adequate judgment. Those English Ladies who I am acquainted with are, neither superior or Inferior to those of our own Country. The English Women affect a Masculine air and manner which to me is horrid beyond description, and they generally acquire it. The handsomest Woman I have seen in England was my Lady Stormont. She is really beautifull, for she has in her Countenance and manners a Modesty and a dignity, which must forever please.
We went to visit Mrs. Paradise who I have heretofore described to you. She sees company every sunday Eve, and there is generally a Number of sensible Folks there. Mr. P. seems to be sollicitous to cultivate an acquaintance with all the Foreign ministers and many of them visit at his House. There were no Ladies this Eve. But several Gentlemen.6 As we had not a particular invitation the company was not chosen, tho not the less agreeable. We have never yet been able to persuade Pappa to go, altho Mr. P. visits us as often as 2 or 3 evenings in the week.
Capt. Cushing arived and brought Letters so late as the 25 of October but to my total astonishment neither Pappa nor Mamma have a line from you, and the 2 letters which I have received are { 471 } neither of them later than from New Haven.7 We are yet hopeing that the Capt. may have Letters for us.
Pappa received a Letter from Mr. Nathaniel Barret from some port in France. The ship he was in had like to have been lost, and in indeavouring to save the money Letters and &c, the boat sank, and every thing which was in it was lost. Fortunately there was but one person drownd. We hope your Letters were not on board this ship.8 I am particularly anxious to receive Letters from you from Boston, and I think you unpardonable if you have not written. But this I think all most impossible. Our Letters speak in the highest terms of you. We fear they will spoil you by the [ . . . ] 9 young Men, till they make them perfectly ridiculous. I know of no such characters in Boston and I hope they may never exist there, but at the same time there may be some danger in too much attention and praise. It will require much firmness and fortitude not to be injured by it. I learn from Letters received10 that you are at Haverhill with Mr. Shaw, and proposed, entering Colledge in April. I hope it is true. Our accounts from my other two Dear Brothers are as favourable as we could wish, that Charles, is steady and studious and enjoys the good will of his Class and the Affection of his Tutor, but we are not told who he was. I hope you will be more particular—if you are not I will scold you.
Oh, how often do I wish myself with you, but when that will be Heaven only knows. My Brother [ . . . ] 11
Your Letters from New York, and so far on your journey as I have received have given me much pleasure, and sattisfaction. I wish they had been later dates, or that I could yet acknowledge the receipt of Later Dates. I have written you often and largely but I fear my Letters will be to you tedious. Yet it is against my principles almost to make appologies for I allways think them the dullest part of a Dull Letter.
Lately I have had a good deal of writing to do for your father, for, Mr. Smith, has been absent near 4 months and tis near three since Pappa has heard a Word from him. In short we are tottally at a loss to account for his <absence> Conduct. It is quite a matter of speculation amongst his Brethren in Commission.12 One of them told me yesterday he had not been in his own Country for ten years, that he wished ardently to go only for six weeks. If he could do as Coll. S—— [ . . . ] 13 He14 has lately finished a peice which has done him great Honour, and Mr. West said of him here the other day, that he knew { 472 } of no young Man, who promised so much as he. He has just begun the battle of Bunkers Hill, and it is thought will have a very good picture. If he succeeds in this I am told he proposes to go on, with many of the important events in our own Country.
Count Sarsfeild came in to tell us that he could not pass our House without calling. He has made us many friendly visits lately, but goes to Paris next week. Before we had finished drinking tea Mr. Barthelemy Chargé des affaires du France, and Mr. d'Aragon, private secretary to Compt D'Adamah [Adhémar], came in. The former I have mentiond to you before I believe. He is an agreeable Man, and has less, of the Frivolity of a French man, than they generally possess. Mr. Daragon is a very opposite character, he has vivacity enough. We all agree that he resembles you very much. Mr. B. told him one day at table when we were remarking the resemblance, that he had a compliment to make him. “Vous avez I'Honneur a resembler le frere de Mademoiselle Adams.” It is rather in his person, and his eyes than for I dont think him so well looking a young Man as mon frere. He has served in America as private secretary to Count Rochambeau, and speaks english very well. He is solliciting of His Court to be sent Consul to Boston, it not however very probable he will succeed.
Pray did you ever hear of the famouss Mademoiselle d'eon, who served as Chargé des affaires du France and afterwards as ambassador from that Court to this—who obtained le croix de St. Louis, and was in several engagements who fought two Duels on the part of some Ladies, and many more extrordinary matters—whose works, make thirteen vollumes &c. She has lately arrived in this City, and these Gentleman had dined with her and were speaking of her. She has resumed la habit des dames, but Mr. D. told me he was sure, She might go dressd in l'habit d'Homme and not be noticed, but she could not as a Lady. She wears her croix de St. Louis and as one may well suppose a singular figure, as well as an extrordinary Character.15
Mr. Paradise and Mr. Freime16 secretary to the Portuguese Minister, calld and spent an hour or two. The Chavelier de Pinto has lately made proposals, or rather taken up, those which Pappa made to the Ambassador from Portugal in France, and he has written to his Court for full powers to form a commercial Treaty with America.17 They seem sollicitous for it, and are desirios to send and receive ministers and Consuls to and from America. Pappa has written to Mr. Jay in favour of your friend W——18 for Consul. This Mr. F. seems to be a { 473 } steady sober young Man. He has been many years in this Country and speaks english well for a foreigner. They had finished their visit, and Mamma was gone up stairs to go to bed, it was about ten oclock when a foot mans rap, roused us, and who should it be but Madame de Pinto, to make a visit more gracious than is customary She came in and sat half an hour. Her visit was particularly to tell us, that She saw company every sunday Evening and should be happy to see us. She seems to be a friendly agreeable Woman, speaks english a little. Her manners are more French than English, par consequence plus agreable.
This Evening Mr. Joy sent my father Word that his Brother would go for NY in the Packet which would sail on Wedensday and he would take Letters for us. I intend giveing this and one other to his Care,19 for there is not ship to sail from hence for a long time. I hope you will mind what I have said about writing by the <French> English packet from NY. We think it very extrordinary that there was no Letters from you after your arrival in Boston, and not a line to Pappa or Mamma.
The Ceres we fear is lost, the Passengers and People were all saved but the mony and Letters all lost. I hope yours were not on board, of her tho I fear it.20
Dft (Adams Papers). The text is written on 11 small, unnumbered pages. The bottom of page 6 and the top of page 7 have been cut out of the letter, resulting in the loss of text at three places (see notes 9, 11, and 13). The editors give their reasons for thinking this is a draft in notes 11 and 20.
1. That of 17 July, above, carried by John Barker Church, who sailed from New York on 4 Aug., on the British packet (JQA, Diary , 1:297). AA2 received this letter, with JQA to AA2 , 25 May, above, also carried by Church, on 5 Sept. ( AA2 to JQA , 26 Aug., above).
2. AA2 to JQA , 18 Oct., above.
3. Neither JQA 's letters written during his return journey from Russia in the winter of 1783, above, nor his Diary entries for that period, identify any of the Swedish ladies whom he met, or mention the offer of any gentlemen to introduce him at the Swedish court.
4. That is, North American. AA2 met the persons mentioned in this paragraph at Benjamin Vaughan's on 26 Nov. (AA2, Jour. and Corr. , [3]:199–200).
5. Thomas Pownall made this visit on 18 Nov. (AA2, (Jour. and Corr.), [3]:199. Pownall was governor of Massachusetts, 1757–1760, a member of the House of Commons, 1767–1780, and the author of several important treatises on Anglo-American relations, as well as on antiquarian, economic, and scientific subjects. Pownall and his second wife had been touring through southern France since the fall of 1784 ( DNB ). JA and JQA had visited Pownall at his home at Richmond Hill on 29 Nov. 1783 (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:151; JQA, Diary , 1:206).
6. In her long journal entry for this day, AA2 particularly mentioned a “Mr. Hrne Tooke,” with whose manners and benevolent sentiments she was much impressed ( Jour. and Corr ., [3]:200–201). See John Horne Tooke's entry in DNB .
7. The two letters are JQA to AA2 , 9 Aug., above, begun in New York and completed on 19 Aug., in New Haven; and probably JQA to AA2 , 1 Aug., above. AA2 's journal places the receipt of these letters on 28 Nov. ( Jour. and Corr ., [3]:201–202).
8. Nathaniel Barrett wrote to JA on 29 Nov. { 474 } (letter not found), and enclosed an earlier, undated letter, written “At sea Nov. 1785” (Adams Papers). Barrett's letter of 29 Nov. gave details of the shipwreck of the Ceres ( JA to Barrett, 2 Dec., LbC , Adams Papers), which sailed from Boston in late October (see James Bowdoin to Thomas Jefferson, 23 Oct., and Thomas Cushing to Jefferson, 25 Oct., Jefferson, Papers , 8:662–663, 670–671), and which AA2 mentions at the end of this letter. JQA 's letter to AA2 of 20 Aug., above, was on the Ceres.
9. About eight full lines of text have been cut away here. See note 11.
10. See Mary Cranch to AA , 14 Aug.; Cotton Tufts to JA , 6 Oct.; Cotton Tufts to AA , 14 Oct.; and Mary Cranch to AA , [ca. 23] Oct., all above.
11. A comparison of the content of the text surrounding the three deleted passages (see notes 9 and 13), and the layout of this passage on two MS pages, point to this passage, of about fourteen lines, as the object of a deliberate deletion, uncommon in an Adams MS , with the shorter ones, above and below, being merely the reverse sides of this text.
If this letter is a draft, as seems virtually certain (see immediately below, and note 20), AA2 may have removed this passage herself. Because there is no other extant version of this letter, or any summary of one by JQA or others, the missing text cannot be reconstructed, but a possible topic of the passage is AA2 's dismissal of Royall Tyler or some comment upon him. No such remarks appear elsewhere in AA2 's letters to JQA . AA2 evidently did send a copy of this letter to JQA that has not been found (see AA2 to JQA , 5 Dec., below, the beginning of which refers to a longer version of the letter).
12. That is, the diplomatic corps in London.
13. Here again, about seven MS lines of text have been removed (see note 11).
14. The artist John Trumbull. The piece that he had “lately finished” has not been identified. AA2 would describe Trumbull's The Battle of Bunker Hill, completed in March 1786, after seeing the work in progress in January ( AA2 to JQA , 22 Jan. 1786, Adams Papers, filmed with AA2 to JQA , 5 Dec. 1785). See Theodore Sizer, The Works of John Trumbull, Artist of the American Revolution, New Haven, 1967, figs. 145–151, and accompanying text.
15. Chevalier Charles de Beaumont d'Eon (1728–1810) served as a French diplomat in Russia, and briefly in Austria, in the 1750s, and as secretary to the Duc de Nivernais, the French ambassador to Great Britain, in 1762–1763. For his efforts in concluding the Peace of Paris of 1763, and his earlier work in St. Petersburg, he received the Cross of St. Louis. He wrote extensively on the history, commerce, and government, and the fiscal and social problems, of Russia, France, and Great Britain. D'Eon often dressed in women's clothes, and genuine confusion as to his sex was widespread in his lifetime, but his death certificate, and the report of an autopsy performed before three witnesses in London by a surgeon to the exiled Louis XVIII, reported that he was male (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ).
16. Ciprião Ribeiro de Freire later served as Portugal's chargé d'affaires in London, 1790–1792, as Portugal's first minister to the United States, 1794–1799, and as minister to Spain in 1801 ( Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter aller Länder , 3:317, 321, 320).
17. See JA to John Jay, 5 Nov. (PCC, No. 84, V, f. 717–728; printed in Dipl. Corr. , 1783–1789, 2:527–533); and JA to Thomas Jefferson, 5 Nov. (Jefferson, Papers , 9:18–22). Both letters report on JA 's conference with Pinto on 4 November.
18. JA wrote to John Jay on 3 Dec. ( LbC , Adams Papers), to recommend Winslow Warren for U.S. consul to Portugal. Warren, however, returned to Boston unexpectedly in mid-December (Mary Cranch to AA , 18 Dec., below), and was not appointed consul.
19. AA2 's other letter sent to New York has not been identified; see AA2 to JQA , 5 Dec., below, under “Wedensday 7th.”
20. On this last page, written crosswise, and apparently partly under the end of AA2 's text, is a sentence in AA 's hand: “Mrs. Adams compliments to Mr. Brown request him to get the extract of the Letter from Boston inserted.” Nothing is known about this sentence, but it does not appear to relate to AA2 's letter. Its appearance, however, is yet another indication that AA2 's letter is a draft, written here on a sheet of paper that AA had already used.
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